Diet & Nutrition
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Hearty, Home-Cooked Meals Under 600 Calories

Whip up your comfort food favorites without the guilt. 

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By Taylor Lupo

Heathy, home-cooked meals don’t have to be bland. In fact, you can enjoy the flavors of your favorite comfort foods—with fewer calories—by making a few simple swaps.

A healthy diet consists of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins, so making meals with these ingredients ensures you’re getting the nutrients you need. Monitoring your portions, being mindful of calories and making healthy food swaps are also paramount to a healthy lifestyle.

Not sure where to begin? Up your healthy cooking skills with tips from registered dietitian nutritionist, Kelly Kugler of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale FL and Keith Kreitz, MD, a bariatric surgeon at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA. 

Italian-Style Chicken

2 / 6 Italian-Style Chicken

Enjoy this restaurant staple with fewer calories and no guilt. Lean chicken breast, fresh tomato and flavors, like garlic and coriander, combine to create a tasty dish with only 270 calories.

Spinach provides a dose of vitamin A and tomatoes contain vitamin C. 

The secret to this flavorful dish? Spices! “The great thing about spices is, they’re usually calorie-free,” Kreitz says. 

Traditional Lump Crab Cakes

3 / 6 Traditional Lump Crab Cakes

This healthy recipe will transport you to a five-star, waterfront restaurant—without the stuffy dress code.

Lighten this dish even more by swapping mayonnaise for non-fat plain Greek yogurt. The change up will save you 80 calories, 10 grams of fat and 380 milligrams of sodium per three tablespoons.

A crab cake goes well with a bed of fresh greens, but bypass the store-bought salad dressings, and make your own with less fat and sugar.    

Kreitz recommends using extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. Add a bit of mustard or lemon juice and your favorite spices for even more guilt-free flavor. 

Meatloaf

4 / 6 Meatloaf

Meatloaf is the epitome of comfort food, but it doesn’t have to be a total calorie bomb—a few simple swaps can be the difference between a cheat meal and a healthy dinner option.

“Whenever you're making meatloaf, try to sub some of the meat for lentils and add lots of vegetables,” Kugler says. “You can even try replacing eggs with flaxseed,” she adds. Soak one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water, until it forms a gel. Each large egg swapped cuts fat and calories nearly in half, eliminates cholesterol and adds a bit of fiber.

Makeover your meatloaf by replacing high-fat ground beef with lean ground turkey, for a swap that saves an extra 35 calories and three grams of fat per three-ounce serving.

Turkey Burger

5 / 6 Turkey Burger

A hamburger and french fries is the all-American dish, but can pack 230 calories and 15 grams of fat—without a bun or toppings.

A turkey burger is a great alternative. What’s better? This open-faced recipe uses portabella mushroom caps instead of a traditional carb-heavy bun. If a vegetarian option is more your speed, ditch the meat altogether, and enjoy a portabella patty! One portabella mushroom cap will run you about 20 calories, and contains no fat or cholesterol.

Kreitz also recommends using sandwich thins that contain about 100 calories and five grams of fiber per serving. 

Chicken and Biscuits

6 / 6 Chicken and Biscuits

This southern specialty is typically anything but healthy, but it doesn’t have to be.

A few simple swaps will whip this dish right into shape: Use baked or grilled chicken without the skin and opt for whole grain English muffins. Replacing heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in your gravy also saves calories, fat and cholesterol. Just swap the cream with equal parts evaporated skim milk.   

“Portion control is key. No matter what you're cooking, if your portion sizes are too big you run the risk of getting more calories than you need for the day," Kugler says.

See more from Dr. Kreitz and Kelly Kugler.